In Nick Cave’s End Upheld, a black figure carved from wood supports a stool or tray. The boy peers up from eyes inlaid with shell. The figure may once have served as a piano stool, bearing the weight of another person, but he is now elevated on a modern green metal stool of his own. The space above the platform he holds is transformed by strands of beads, hanging lamps, and colorful birds.
The title can be read in multiple ways. “To hold up one’s end of the bargain” is to do one’s part, as agreed upon by both parties. Cave’s tongue-in-cheek title highlights the lack of an agreement or fair bargain in America’s history of racism and slavery. It may also posit the question of this figure’s use as a stool and the referred-to “end” as the rear end of a human body. The figure now sits atop his own stool, cherished, adorned, and protected by a rich tapestry of found objects that both shelter and enshrine.